On Site: Canada and New England Showcase Offerings for Cruisers


Photo by Meagan Drillinger

Travel Agent has been on location in Quebec all week attending the Canada New England Cruise Symposium 2012. The conference kicked off with a pre-tour traveling up the St. Lawrence River from Montreal to Trois-Riveries, ending in Quebec City where the symposium officially began.

For us, we found it amazing that there is such a wealth of history and culture available to cruisers right in our own backyard, which we imagine will come as a pleasant surprise to your clients not acquainted with the destination.

The first panel of the symposium focused on the distribution and consumer components, moderated by Christine Duffy, president of the Cruise Line International Association (CLIA). Panel members included Yves Gentil, director Destination Quebec; Terri A. Haas, chief commercial officer at Compagnie du Ponant; and Cathy A. Kussuna, director, training and program development, Cruise Planners American Express.

"I want you to hear from me, as someone who is relatively new to the cruise industry, that the work of Canada and New England to put this destination on the map is unmatched by any place else," Duffy said.

It is interesting to note that Canada and New England's cruise associations have formed an informal partnership. There is no board of directors, no governing policy and no formal structure. But it works, and works well.

There are nine St. Lawrence ports of call, which are expected to receive 250,000 cruise passengers in 2012. CLIA conducted a survey asking travel agents for their thoughts on this market and this destination. Compared to other popular cruise destinations, Canada/New England ranks highly for scenic beauty, strong culture and history, good shopping, interesting attractions and more.

For travelers who love Europe, but perhaps are wary of rising fuel prices, this region provides an interesting alternative. The destinations along the St. Lawrence river are steeped in French culture, rich with language, food, architecture and art - all accessible without the astronomical air fees and the jetlag.

"Forty-two percent of agents believe that this region is also appealing to first-time cruisers," Duffy said.

"This destination is very important to us because we are relatively unknown in the North American market," said Haas. "We've been working with tour operators for over 20 years and are just starting to get into the FIT market. This is a French destination, and we can extend that experience on board our ship."

"We focus on the proximity of the destination," said Gentil. "It is so easy to get to. We also focus on culture, language and food. This is the experience of the destination and in the U.S., the big trend is experiential travel."

The destination is scheduled to welcome 1,000 calls into ports, bringing in an economic factor of close to $1 billion. "It's important to know that we share a wealth of cruise business knowledge. Where we excel is our joint efforts to market our destination," said Rene Trepanier, executive director of Cruises St. Lawrence. "Baltic, Mediterranean and Alaska beware. Canada and New England have some surprises in store."

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